April 16, 2006 9:50 PM   Subscribe

What set of newspapers and magazines can one read to observe the cross-section of political biases?

I read the New York Times every day, hitting most of the news sections (skipping travel, food, etc. except on weekends). NYT is a fantastic newspaper, and I respect its writers and the quality of news they present, but sometimes I see obvious hints of "liberal" slant (not often, but this point can be addressed another time). I'm trying to expand my set information sources, not necessarily to "balance" my intake but because I want to see what all sides are saying. I'm assuming there's no good, single source for this, so what set of high-quality newspapers/magazines showcases the news and interpretations of all sides of the political spectrum?

In particular, I'm looking for sources that are free (or low) in obvious, angry punditry, but names of some insightful columnists would be appreciated too.

Online news aggregators are okay too, but I'm really looking for sources with identifiable bias.

I don't watch much TV, but if anyone suggests a good show, I'd be up for trying.

Bonus points for sources with free online editions.
posted by bargex to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The Economist is excellent; I wouldn't describe it as conservative, though some do, but it's certainly coming from a more pro-free-market viewpoint than the Times. The WSJ is also an excellent paper if you ignore the op-ed page (though it may interest you as an example of conservative thinking) — but it's not free online. You might enjoy Reason magazine; it's a very explicitly libertarian/conservative publication which is available online and is (IMHO) well-done. The Christian Science Monitor is another often-neglected publication which does a pretty good job.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 9:59 PM on April 16, 2006

Newspapers will report all stories as viewed through a local lens. So, if you read a variety of newspapers from different geographic locations, you'll naturally see the same stories within contexts meant to reflect the local interests of the paper's hometown. While this might not be "balanced," it will be nuanced differently.

Let's say a random event happens in Chicago -- let's say it's a plane crash. The Dallas Morning News will report what it thinks people from Dallas are interested in and/or will find useful -- was anybody from Dallas involved? What's the reaction from American Airlines, based in Dallas? The Seattle Times will view that same story from a completely different lens -- was anybody from Seattle involved? What does this mean for Boeing, which is headquartered in Chicago but has deep ties to the Seattle area? The Washington Post will start talking about FAA policies. The Chicago Tribune will have man-on-the-street stories from people who actually witnessed the event. The Miami Herald will have stories about how this reminds everyone of that same kind of crash that happened in Florida ... and so on, and so on.

This same "everything is local" angle will be reflected in political coverage.
posted by frogan at 11:18 PM on April 16, 2006

The Wall Street Journal is worth subscribing to for their hard news, much better than most papers IMHO.

I read the Journal and the Chicago Tribune everyday.

If you are looking for magazines:

  • The Economist is a conservative/free-market "newspaper" with a British point-of-view. It is very good, but very expensive, and almost all of the content is locked up online, but they seem to be experamenting with a 24-hour pass if you watch an ad, similar to Salon.
  • National Review is the mainstream Conservative standard, and a lot of the articles are posted online for free as well as articles that appear online only. (Has a "paperless" subscription where you can download a PDF of each issue for a discounted rate)
  • The Weekly Standard is NeoConservative, and most if not all of the articles from each issue are posted online for free as well as articles that appear online only. (Has a "paperless" subscription where you can download a PDF of each issue for a discounted rate)
  • The New Republic is Center-Left but not many of it's articles appear online for free. (Has a "paperless" subscription where you can download a PDF of each issue for a discounted rate)
  • Reason is a Libertarian (not conservative) magazine. All of each issue's content is posted online for free, as well as an excellent weblog

  • posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 11:54 PM on April 16, 2006

    don't forget nyc indymedia's Indypendent, which has some ground breaking journalism now and again. Out of Slingshot, Asheville Global Report, blackthorn, and other radical left newspapers in the U.S., I think this one is most consistent.

    But only because DemocracyNow! isn't in print.
    posted by eustatic at 12:36 AM on April 17, 2006

    I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that the single best news aggregator is The Week. It does exactly what you want to do, but does it for you -- samples cross sections of opinion on the biggest issues of the week, and puts them together in nice, succinct packages.

    This article on Bush the leaker is a perfect example: sparring opinions on the matter from Slate, the New York Times, the New York Post, Time.com, and the Washington Post, all in 597 words.

    It's also a fast and fun read. About an hour cover-to-cover.

    I occasionally search for cheap subscription rates to extend my own one-year deal, but they haven't been available for a while. So it'll cost you between $25-$30 a year, depending on whether you want to take a chance on a discounter or go straight to the source.
    posted by young_simba at 3:08 AM on April 17, 2006

    It's not going to cover all of your news, but if you're interested in the topic of bias and varying coverage, I highly recommend you look at the blog of the Columbia Journalism Review, CJR Daily. Its stories are specifically on the coverage of events, both by newspapers and the blogs.
    posted by Schismatic at 5:52 AM on April 17, 2006

    If you want one conservative magazine, go with National Review. The print version, not online. For one, it's the most intelligent and best written.

    Reason is also a great magazine, though definitely "libertarian" ... definitely a different perspective. Worth at least knowing that those folks really are out there.

    In terms of television, if you ever get it in your head to watch Fox News, stay away from guys like O'Reilly and Hannity who are jokes even to many conservatives and watch Special Report w/ Brit Hume or Fox News Sunday.
    posted by dagnyscott at 6:18 AM on April 17, 2006

    Here is one link to "liberal magazines." You can get the The American Prospect at Borders. I don't read it regularly, but I liked it when I did. The Atlantic Monthly can be pretty good too at times (Seymour Hirsh did a number of outstanding articles on Iraq long before anyone else).

    If you're into NYC news, there's always the New Yorker, New York Magazine, New York Observer (NY politics) and, of course, the New York Times. At the other end of the newspaper spectrum in NYC is the tabloid NY Post. This is a Republican leaning newspaper. The Post is pure T. crazy -- but it is my guilty pleaseure I admit. Skip their editorials and enjoy the rest. The headlines alone are worth 50 cents. And never ever ever read Steve Dunleavy. He's insane.

    Also check out the Washington Post, of course. Its opposite is the Washington Times.

    And when I need a little respite from everything, I go to SFgate -- the San Francisco Chronicle. I can't get into the L.A. Times.

    Also, the Chicago Tribune is probably the big midwest newspaper so it's worth reading for a non-coastal perspective, IMHO.

    The London Financial Times is important too. As is the Wall Strrret Journal if you're into the business thing.

    Tikkun is pretty good. It's more of a progressive new-age religion sort of magazine of the somewhat jewish persuasion.

    And I give Amy Goodman and Democracy Now two thumbs up! Watch her on the web.
    posted by bim at 6:56 AM on April 17, 2006

    You can read the NYT, The Washington Post, The New York Post, and Time magazine and still get a very narrow view of the world. If you're really serious about observing the "cross-section of political biases" there is a much, much wider range of opinion. There are many questions that the above-mentioned papers will never, ever ask.

    I would suggest at the very least reading a couple of international, publicly-funded news agencies like BBC News or even CBC News. Le Monde Diplomatique is more geared toward opinion. If you really want to get far away from the WSJ op-eds, try ZNET. This is a user-funded news and information source.
    posted by Idiot Mittens at 9:23 AM on April 17, 2006

    I'll just add, and I don't mean to be a prick here, but you said:

    "I'm really looking for sources with identifiable bias"

    In my opinion, the NYT is one of those sources (and I'm talking right-wing bias). But it can be difficult to identify if you're brought up on American news. And I'm going to hazard a guess that you're American. But kudos to you for making an effort to look beyond.

    And the line between "angry punditry" and "insightful columnists" all depends on your point of view...
    posted by Idiot Mittens at 9:54 AM on April 17, 2006

    the NYT is one of those sources (and I'm talking right-wing bias). But it can be difficult to identify if you're brought up on American news

    And I'll hazzard a guess that anyone who thinks the New York Times is right-wing is very far out there on the Left. It can be difficult to identify if you're brought up on Left-wing views.
    posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:33 AM on April 17, 2006

    Thank God THE WEEK came across the pond to America. The U.S. version is fast gaining popularity and rightfully so. It does exactly what you're looking for. I eliminated several subscriptions with my one sub to THE WEEK.
    posted by Gerard Sorme at 10:57 AM on April 17, 2006

    Steve_at_Linnwood says: And I'll hazzard a guess that anyone who thinks the New York Times is right-wing is very far out there on the Left

    I'm not trying to go left or right. I'm just trying not to go down. All this left-wing/right-wing talk is vastly oversimplified. My point was basically that the NYT can hardly be identified with so-called "left-wing" groups that fundamentally oppose things like the invasion of Iraq, while the NYT peddles government PR catchphrases and paints the US government as bumbling but well-meaning, when the facts seem to point to the opposite being the case.

    It can be difficult to identify if you're brought up on Left-wing views.

    I was brought up in a strict Catholic household and taught not to question authority. When I hit adolescence I realized that that approach was not in my best interest. I don't demand anyone adopt my point of view, but I think there are questions that everyone needs to ask about what their tax dollars pay for. Questions the NYT and the like do not seem interested in.
    posted by Idiot Mittens at 12:11 PM on April 17, 2006

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